Three Things: UNC Hoops Notebook
1. Dean Smith identified Jeff Lebo early as a potential standout head coach, and talked often of the respect he had for Lebo's knowledge of the game. The Carlisle, Penn., native has had some tough coaching assignments--who is the last coach to win without NCAA issues at Auburn?--but had his East Carolina team well-drilled and capable on Saturday.
Lebo, who has multiple coaching influences, including his father, Dave (who was on some of his early coaching staffs), also showed some major Smith influences. With the game feeling well in hand for the Tar Heels, Lebo called a quick timeout after his squad cut the deficit to 13 points with 5:51 remaining. It was a classic Smith move, as he loved the mere suggestion--both for his team and the other team--that a comeback was possible. Indeed, he was prescient, as the Pirates were one block/charge call on the baseline away from making things very uncomfortable in the Smith Center.
Not surprisingly, as Lebo discussed the more perimeter-heavy Tar Heel personnel in his postgame press conference, he referenced someone who had a major impact on his life. "Coach Smith used to tell me," Lebo said, "that the only permanent thing in life is change."
2. The Tar Heels hit the road again tomorrow night for a 9 p.m. tipoff (ESPN2) in Austin. Texas and Carolina have crossed paths already once this year, and the Longhorns struggled in Maui, losing to Chaminade and USC. The Rick Barnes-coached squad is still awaiting word on guard Myck Kabongo, who in true NCAA fashion is guilty until proven innocent. But the Erwin Center is a tough place to play; since the start of the 2002-03 season, Texas is 86-3 (.965) at home against non-conference opponents. And although the Texas offense has been a work in progress, the defense has been very stingy--the 'Horns rank second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.332) and are allowing opponents to shoot just 24.0 percent from the three-point line. As usual against Barnes, expect a slower-paced, grind-it-out type contest.
A note you might not have expected: the Longhorns lead the all-time matchups against the Tar Heels, 4-3, and have won four of the past five games in the series.
3. Given the sticky Texas defense, it'll be interesting to see how P.J. Hairston attacks it. Saturday's game against East Carolina marked just the second time this season and just the eighth time in his 46-game UNC career that the sophomore attempted more two-pointers than three-pointers in a single game. Carolina is 7-1 in those eight games. Not coincidentally, Hairston also made four trips to the free throw line against the Pirates, converting all of them (at 86.4%, Hairston is easily Carolina's best free throw shooter).
At 0.67 points per minute, Hairston continues to lead the Tar Heels in that category. For the sake of reference, Tyler Hansbrough averaged 0.68 points per minute during Carolina's 2009 national championship season.